Tarun and Yogita's Travel Blog

Let the world change you, so you can change the world!

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Location: New Delhi, India

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

The wonder city called San Francisco

Alcatraz Island, the TransAmerica Pyramid, the Golden Gate bridge, Coit Tower, many bridges of the bay reflect the history of this city that was a host to many immigrants. These are nice to know, nice to see places in San Francisco. But so are places in other cities in the US.

The magic of San Francisco lies in the the China Town, the Little Italy and the little latino street called the Mission Street and other places around it. It was amazing to see small shops with items that did not have that irritatingly ubiquitous bar code which is somewhat reminiscent of the shops in India. The strong culture of these places and occasionally running into people who could not speak English left a strong impression of this truly global city called San Francisco.

Some things that will always be fresh in my mind were our little rendezvous with the Buddhist Monastery and chanting the name of Buddha with the monks, the graffiti in the Mission district and the painters still finishing some of their art work and the experience of the night time communion of various artists. We spent our final night in San Francisco attending a few programs by the members of Mission Arts & Performance Project. These people come together anywhere they find a small place (even in a garage) to express their thoughts and feelings through their art.

Oh wait, did I forget the crookdest street in the world? Tarun's friend, Brandon, who had shown us around San Francisco the day we landed there, drove us along this street paved with bricks that has sharp switchbacks. Oh and the popular steep hilly streets of San Francisco and houses sharing a wall with each other ... this city sure has its own charm.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Desert Sun and ...

...the most difficult terrain in the world for hikers. The Grand Canyon, the abyss that is a mile deep and about 277 miles wide, is truly the natural wonder of the world. It is reverred by all the hikers as well as non-hikers. This was apparent by the number of tourists we saw at the Grand Canyon. Well we were fortunate to be one of the 1% of 5 million tourists that visit Grand Canyon. Why?

We decided to hike from the North Rim to South Rim via Phantom Ranch. A total of about 24 miles of hiking across the rugged terrain and steepest of the trails, presents with an unimaginable views of the canyon. The hike from North Rim to Phanton Ranch was about 13.8 miles (via North Kaibab Trail) and Phantom Ranch to South Rim is 9.5 miles (via Bright Angel Trail). We did it in 3 days 2 nights but some people did it in 2 days and even 1 day. Well doing it in 1 day in Summer is strictly not recommended by the Park Rangers. We are not that experienced (may be now we are...) so we decided to take it easier (not easy :)). Phantom Ranch was a nice surprise as there was a canteen that was air-conditioned and had food to buy and the aab-e-hayaat (nectar of immortality :)), lemonade. This was heaven for us who had been in temperatures well in 40s (deg celsius) for the past day and half.

Hiking in the Grand Canyon is a lot of fun, only if one wants to make it so. It requires a lot of preparation to come to terms with this humbling desert gorge. Along the way, as rangers suggest, we soaked ourselves with water which cools the body as water evaporates in the heat. We ate twice as much and lots of salty snacks to replace the salt lost. One ranger mentioned that we loose on an average 500 calories in 1 hour while hiking in the Canyon. Along the way we met a lot of people from around the world. In fact as one gentleman pointed English was not the primary language on the trails. We met a very nice couple, Joe and Nicole, along the way and they helped us quite a lot by attending to my blisters and adjusting our backpacks and really became friends in the few hours we spent with them. Lots of lizards (during the day) and scorpions (during the night) just stroll across the canyon. We used to start really early in the day waking up at 4 am so we got a change to see the canyon during the sunrise and the sunset. There are many things that amazed me about Grand Canyon. One of the most notable ones was the history of human establishments inside the canyon and the names of certain peaks. Yes, some of them were named after Hindu Gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Krishna etc. The trail map we bought shows it all.

I am glad I did this, not as much for accomplishing a daring physical act but more to know closely the power of nature and experience a landscape that I have never experienced before. The colors of the Grand Canyon changing with the depth, the force of the Colorado, the muddy, River and the different minerals (mica is the only one I could recognize) we saw. We were just awestruck by the beauty of the God's most amazing sculpture.